PR Refresher: How to Pitch to Media 101

As grows, so do the number of pitches that grace my inbox.

Sometimes a pitch can save my morning during a moment of writer’s block or on a slow news day – especially if it’s unique and all the information is easily accessible with a few clicks.

Others are just tedious.

From business newbies to seasoned public relations professionals, some people could use a few pointers when it comes to pitching media (not to be rude – I’m just telling it as it is).

So, here are 11 of them…

1. Be clear in the subject line.
A clear, well-crafted subject line could make the difference as to whether the email will be opened right away, when I get around to it, or never at all. It’s an added bonus if it’s witty or attention grabbing as well. A clear subject line will also make the email easier to find when I sit down to catch up on a growing number of pitches that have accumulated.

2. Always BCC, or send mass emails through an email service.
Sure, we realize that you’re probably pitching multiple media outlets – and there’s nothing wrong with that. With that said, we don’t need to see the list of the countless other publications and bloggers who are getting the same email. It doesn’t look professional; not to mention, you’ve now given out everyone’s email (rookie move).

3. Make it personal.
Even if you’re using the same template email text for multiple outlets, it’s always appreciated if you include the media person’s name in the pitch. If you really think your pitch is an undeniable fit, reach out with a personal email as opposed to a generic mass email. Reference a recent event we were both at, another project we worked on together, or – if we’ve never met – some of our recent work. A personal email invites a response (whether it means a bite or a pass) more than a mass-distributed press release does.

4. But don’t make it too personal.
Unless we’re actually friends, please don’t contact me through my personal channels with a pitch. Seriously. I’ve been pitched through everything from my Facebook account to text messages from people I never knew had my number. Not only does it mean more work for me when you drop me a line to tell me to check out your website or another article you’ve been featured in, it’s unprofessional and therefore won’t be taken seriously.

5. Let us know what’s in it for us.
The main thing we’re looking for when it comes to pitches is how it will benefit our readers and our publication. This means you need to have a clear understanding of our demographic and the types of stories we typically produce. The best relationships to have with media are those that are reciprocal. Meaning, if you can offer us something – like first dibs on a story or an exclusive interview – and we can offer coverage, we’ll be quicker to open your emails in the future. It’s all about relationship building.

6. Do your research.
Knowing why your idea is a great fit for an audience and a publication requires research and subsequent knowledge of the publication. For example, pitching me toys for toddlers (yes, it’s happened) probably isn’t a great idea. Nor is sending me a long event press releases for ‘The Weekender,’ which we discontinued over a year ago.

7. Make it easy for us (please).
Always attach all the information in the initial email to eliminate the back-and-forth of emails (a waste of both of our time). This means a linked press release, fact sheet, and link to images, if necessary. One of my biggest pet peeves is a PDF press release that won’t allow me to cut and paste key stats and quotes.

8. Don’t be sneaky.
There are some sneaky media-pitching people out there – and I know from experience. Don’t contact a coworker of mine about the same pitch you’re currently working on with me; if we’re in the middle of an email dialogue, don’t “conveniently” take the opportunity to e-introduce and CC somebody else you know who also has a great story; and don’t invite multiple people from one publication to an event if you can’t accommodate us all. It happens.

9. Don’t harass me.
There’s a fine line between following up and being too persistent – trust me. I 100 per cent appreciate a follow-up email or two, and sometimes one can be extremely helpful. But please don’t harass me, especially if we’ve been in correspondence, I’ve told you that I will get back to you, and it’s only been 24 hours.

10. Don’t take it personally.
If you don’t get a response, it’s usually nothing personal (so please do reach out with more pitches in the future). There are many reasons why a story may not be a great fit at the moment. For example, we may have just written about something similar, or there may be a conflict with a client. Plus, I will be the first to admit that once I get into the “writing rabbit hole” my inbox endures some neglect.

11. Share the love.
If we’ve picked up the story, share the love and spread the word by pumping the piece through your social networks as well (please and thank you).